Tim Copp, the (relatively new) president and COO of Spence Diamonds, very generously took some time to speak with me last night.
Spence is the privately-held Vancouver-based chain that has bid for six Robbins Brothers stores – three in Houston, three in the Chicago market. Considering that Spence now has only eight stores, all located in Canada, the purchase, if it goes through, would be a “big deal for us,” Copp says.
As we mentioned last week, Spence stores have a unique format, with open showcases that let customers try on the different rings styles (which all have cubic zirconias).
“We have 3,000 designer prototypes on our showroom floor,” he says. “The styles can be made in any color or metal. We certainly believe that gives customers a lot more choice and selection. It means the customer is in control of the purchasing decision and it’s a much more customer oriented model.”
If a customer orders a piece, it is custom made for them and delivered in 7 to 14 days.
The sale is due to go through May 1, but that’s all up to the courts right now. The plan is for the former Robbins stores to be converted to that format, under the “Spence” banner.
“We believe we have a good model, that’s what makes us unique,” he says. “But we are also going to be open to the markets that we serve. Just because it works in Canada doesn’t mean it will work the exact same way the U.S.”
Copp said the company was particularly attracted to the Texas market.
“If you look at the Texas market it’s very similar to Alberta in Canada,” he says. “The economy is driven by oil. We have been attracted to Texas for some time. It’s just been accelerated given the situation.”
Copp said the company has long looked at the U.S. jewelry market – and in particular studied Jared, Robbins Brothers and Shane. Of course, the latter two are in Chapter 11 – which shows the unfortunate state of the industry right now. Copp says the company is well aware these are perilous times.
“We are proceeding cautiously,” he says. “We don’t want to be ignorant to what’s going on. We do believe that given the unfortunate circumstances that Robbins is in, it’s an opportunity for us to get into the market.”
The company is also a heavily radio advertiser, with commercials in the style of this video.
“The ads are kind of cheeky,” Copp says. “They are done by Sean Jones, the owner of the company. They are a little bit edgy, a little bit fun, self-deprecating sometimes. We like to say that love them or hate them, you won’t forget them.”
Copp, who has a consumer electronic background, closes by saying: “We look forward to changing the way North America buys diamonds.”